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How the Collapse of Local News Is Causing a ‘National Crisis’

Copies of the Warroad Pioneer sat on a table at the paper’s office in Warroad, Minn., on May 7, the day the paper published its final edition after 121 years.

“This was a national...

“This was a national crisis,” Ms. Nossel said. “This was not about a few isolated areas that were drying up.”

Many Americans are completely unaware that local news is suffering. According to a Pew survey earlier this year[1], 71 percent of Americans believe that their local news outlets are doing well financially. But, according to that report, only 14 percent say they have paid for or donated money to a local news source in the past year.

“They don’t realize that their local news outlet is under threat,” said Viktorya Vilk[2], manager of special projects for PEN, who was one of the report’s authors.

The decline of local news outlets threatens the reporting on public health crises in places like Flint, Mich., where residents voiced concern about the quality of their water to the Flint Journal long before the national media reported on the issue.

In Denver, a diminished local news presence — after the closure of the Rocky Mountain News and the shrunken Denver Post — has contributed to civic disengagement, one case study in the report says. Kevin Flynn, a former journalist turned City Council member, lamented the large number of people who seemed to be unaware of local elections, and the relative handful of reporters covering a quickly growing city. “It feels like we could all be getting away with murder right now,” Mr. Flynn said of public officials.

References

  1. ^ According to a Pew survey earlier this year (www.journalism.org)
  2. ^ Viktorya Vilk (pen.org)

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